On October 1, Intercultural Journeys presents Merging Identities at the Gershman Y. Intercultural Journeys' program assistant, Eric Ziegelman, takes us behind the curtain to meet the lead dancer for the performance, Chloe Perkes.
Eric: You are a classically trained ballet dancer, but most of your recent work has delved into highly experimental genres. Can you tell me a little about that journey and how it brought you to Merging Identities?
Chloe: I was classically trained in ballet, but I started professionally doing a lot of improvisation and experimental work with a contemporary company called The Foundry based in San Francisco. Then, after three years, I went back to ballet and worked for the Sacramento Ballet, where I met the choreographer Matthew Neenan. We made a piece together in Sacramento and I really wanted to work with him more. So I got a job here with Ballet X, where he is the resident choreographer. Now I dance for Ballet X and run a company, Duende, which is directed by me, a cellist, and a composer. I choreograph our pieces, but I usually incorporate a lot of improvisation. I’m really interested in seeing dancers and musicians connect to each other and make choices together in real time. I think that is very beautiful and can be quite magical. It can also be quite risky.
Eric: How has the process been collaborating with the artists involved in Merging Identities? I know each one of you is coming into the project with different backgrounds, specialties, and visions. How has it been navigating those differences?
Chloe: So far we’re just in the stages of creating the framework. The way we’ve structured it will allow me to connect and respond to each of the artists individually. And then over the course of the evening, we will start building into trios. I’m really excited for the performance, because it will be this opportunity for me to have a conversation with each of the artists. What I do is express whatever is going on physically, the musicians are going to do that with sound, and Mehdi, the visual artist, will be giving me input on his canvas. It’s just lots of avenues of information that I can play with physically and I think it is going to be really fun.
Eric: It’s clear that conversation between artists is a very import part of this piece. What are some messages you think the audience should look for or try to pick up on? Do you think there may be anything that will surprise them?
Chloe: I’d say look for us connecting to each other. I think that will be the most important part of the evening - the love and excitement that fills us when we learn from each other in the moment. I think this sort of project really lends itself to those moments of human connection. That’s my favorite part of the performing arts—when you’re not seeing something that has been heavily over-rehearsed. What you are seeing are the people on stage experiencing something genuine and letting you be a part of that moment. It’s going to be an adventure, a voyage, and it will be very exciting.
Eric: Looking beyond this project, are there any side projects or directions you hope to explore in the coming months or year?
Chloe: At Ballet X we’re touring and performing all the time this year and with Duende we have several productions in development. So that’s all pretty packed in there.
Eric: That sounds pretty packed! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me, Chloe. It’s been really great!
Chloe: Thank you!
Join Chloe, Udi Bar-David, Rolando Morales-Matos, and Mehdi Saeedi on Sunday, October 1 for Merging Identities.